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Key Plot Points

Mama and Maggie Wait for Dee: Having tidied their home and yard, Mama and her younger daughter, Maggie, wait for her older daughter, Dee, to arrive. Mama knows that “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes.” As she waits, Mama imagines being brought together with Dee on Johnny Carson’s television show. In her imagination, she is thinner, lighter, and witty, “the way [Dee] would want me to be.”

Mama Remembers Family History: Mama considers some of the traumatic events in her children’s lives. Their home burned down ten or twelve years prior to the start of the story, and Maggie was badly burned. Mama remembers raising money to afford to send Dee to school. She recalls that Dee was unkind and condescending when she shared what she learned with her family and friends. “Dee wanted nice things,” in contrast to Maggie, who is comfortable with her place in life.

Dee Arrives: Dee arrives with her friend. Mama and Maggie are both surprised by Dee’s appearance. Dee is wearing a “dress so loud it hurts,” and her hair “stands up like the wool on a sheep.” Dee has taken a new name: Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Dee explains she doesn’t wish to be named after her oppressors. Mama reminds Dee that she was in fact named after her aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Mama can’t pronounce the name of Dee’s friend, so he shortens it to Hakim-a-barber.

The Family Dines: Dee relishes the meal Mama and Maggie have prepared: pork, collard greens, chitlins, and cornbread. Dee admires many of the family heirlooms,...

(The entire section is 406 words.)